Nuke-free world a U.S. responsibility, Obama says

PRAGUE - As the only country that has used nuclear weapons in war, the United States has a “moral responsibility” to lead a global effort to eliminate those weapons, President Barack Obama said in a speech Sunday, April 5, in the Czech Republic. Pres. Obama told a cheering crowd of about 20,000 people gathered in a square next to the medieval Prague Castle, “The United States will take concrete steps toward a world without nuclear weapons. To put an end to Cold War thinking, we will reduce the role of nuclear weapons in our national security strategy and urge others to do the same.”

Speaking in a city chosen for the symbolism of its peaceful toppling of communism in 1989, Pres. Obama denounced “fatalism” over nuclear proliferation and vowed to lead a global effort to reduce and eventually eliminate nuclear weapons. He cautioned, “This goal will not be reached quickly, perhaps not in my lifetime,” but added, we “must ignore the voices who tell us that the world cannot change.” Echoing his election slogan, he said, “We have to insist, ‘Yes, we can,’”

Japan voiced strong support for Pres. Obama’s call to eventually rid the world of nuclear weapons. On Monday, April 6, Prime Minister Taro Aso told reporters, “It is an extremely good move for a country that possesses nuclear weapons, especially the United States, to seriously pursue this.” And Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Takeo Kawamura stated, “Japan, as the only nation that was attacked with nuclear bombs, has strongly demanded disarmament by nuclear-armed nations. We hope that President Obama’s call will foster the momentum for a nuclear-free world.”

Survivors of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which killed more than 200,000 people, also welcomed Pres. Obama’s speech. Terumi Tanaka, head of a group of hibakusha — survivors of the atomic bombings, said “This is what we have demanded and waited for for the past 60 years.” Tanaka, a survivor of the Nagasaki bombing, added, “To convince North Korea and also Iran to stop their nuclear arms development programs, nuclear arms reduction of the entire world is essential.”

Gary Samore, the White House’s Coordinator for Arms Control and Weapons of Mass Destruction and Terrorism, indicated later that Pres. Obama’s call for ridding the world of nuclear weapons should not be taken too literally. “In terms of a nuclear-free world, I think we all recognize this is not a near-term possibility.” Rather, the call was an attempt to “seize the moral high ground” in order to increase pressure on countries like North Korea and Iran.

Pres. Obama, maintaining that he was “not na´ve,” buttressed the ambitious aim in his speech with a strong condemnation of a rocket test launch by North Korea only hours before, as well as with tough words on Iran. “Iran’s nuclear and ballistic missile activity poses a real threat, not just to the United States, but to Iran’s neighbors and our allies,” he said.

Obama said the United States would go ahead with plans advanced by the Bush administration to build a missile defense system “that is cost-effective and proven” in Eastern Europe, as long as Iran posed a threat with its nuclear program. But he also spoke of the potential for a rapprochement with Iran that would remove the need for such a system: “If the Iranian threat is eliminated, we will have a stronger basis for security, and the driving force for missile defense construction in Europe will be removed.”

Pres. Obama hailed the “courageous” Czech Republic and Poland for agreeing to host installation of the missile defense system on Russia’s doorstep. But Russia has condemned the proposed installation as an act of aggression against them, contributing to a significant decline in U.S.-Russia relations.

The Czech crowd, also, was relatively subdued when Obama spoke about his backing for missile defense. Petr Sramek, 33, was among those disappointed that he had not dropped a policy that was opposed by more than two-thirds of Czechs. “I really liked the clear message on nuclear disarmament, but I am against the missile defense system. It is more about geopolitical influence than defense against missiles,” he said. Arena Protivinska, 30, described herself as a “big fan” of Pres. Obama but accused him of “hypocrisy” for urging world peace while also pushing forward with the controversial system. “He sounded like George W. Bush, saying that we should be afraid in order to justify missile defense,” she said.

About 600 anti-missile-defense protesters marched through Prague after the speech, with banners reading, “Yes, we can ... say no to military bases!”

A U.S. official said Pres. Obama told Polish leaders in a meeting following his speech that the United States would continue research and development on the missile shield, but that “missile defense is no panacea, particularly missile defense that is not proven to work.” He was referring to the Bush administration’s violation of the “fly-before-you-buy” rule in its Alaska deployment of interceptor missiles for the system that have not been tested under realistic battlefield conditions. Tests to date have been under highly scripted conditions, and poor performance — even of target missiles — has been a persistent problem.

In his speech, Pres. Obama reiterated his call for negotiating a new strategic arms reduction treaty with Russia. On April 1, he and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev announced the start of negotiations on a new treaty to replace the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START), which will expire at the end of this year. They committed to reducing strategic nuclear arsenals to levels lower than those mandated by the Bush administration’s Moscow Treaty of 2002, which does not require warheads removed from service to be destroyed and has no verification provisions to assure that stated reductions have actually taken place.

Pres. Obama also announced that the United States would host a global summit on nuclear security next year. In the meantime, he will seek a new treaty to end the production of fissile materials used in nuclear weapons and work for ratification of the nuclear Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, which was signed by former-President Bill Clinton in 1999 but rejected by the Republican-controlled Senate.

– compiled and edited from The Telegraph (U.K.), Reuters, Agence France-Presse and The Associated Press
PeaceMeal, March/April 2009

(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.)

Possibilities for a nuclear weapons-free world

The vision of a nuclear weapons-free world was most famously dismissed by the former Prime Minister of Britain, Margaret Thatcher, as “pie in the sky.” Such was the derision which greeted the disarmament scenario championed by various world governments, as well as many non-governmental organizations. It is, therefore, a revolutionary change to see senior officials from former U.S. Administrations combine to write two opinion pieces calling for such pie in the sky. In January 2007 and again in January 2008, former Secretaries of State George Shultz and Henry Kissinger, former Secretary of Defense William Perry, and former chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee Sam Nunn published powerful pieces in the conservative Wall Street Journal that outlined the dire need for a nuclear weapons-free world, as well as steps to take in that direction.

What distinguishes their year-long initiative is the fact that they have been able to gather a number of other distinguished U.S. individuals — Madeleine Albright, James Baker III, Zbigniew Brzezinski, Warren Christopher and Colin Powell — behind them, with a group of scholars in Stanford University’s Hoover Institution providing the scientific expertise.

A major aim of the initiative is to make the goal of a nuclear weapons-free world into “a joint enterprise” between the nuclear weapons “haves” and “have-nots.” The need for broader support is obvious. Not only do many of the nuclear weapon states and NATO retain policies for the first use of nuclear weapons, but some also have plans for preemptive strikes and for the building of new weapons, with the intent of violating the taboo on their use that has existed since the tragedies of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

The 1970 Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which has long stood against proliferation of nuclear weapons and represented a hope for nuclear disarmament, is now in grave jeopardy. There are no ongoing negotiations for nuclear weapons reductions; negotiations about the nuclear programs of North Korea and Iran are still inconclusive; and there is growing evidence of terrorist groups seeking access to nuclear weapons technology and materials. The Bush Administration has openly rejected the NPT’s obligation to disarm.

Faced with this entrenched attitude in favor of nuclear weapons and their use, broader support for an initiative that will eventually lead to the elimination of the world’s 26,000 such weapons must come primarily from the governments and peoples of the nuclear weapon states themselves, two of which — the United States and Russia — possess 95 percent of the weapons. At the same time, the non-nuclear weapon states and their citizens also have an obligation to take cooperative steps. Thus, we do have a unique opportunity where the fulfillment of the reciprocal obligations of the nuclear weapons “haves” and “have-nots” can together help usher in a nuclear weapons-free world.

The influence of this extraordinary initiative is percolating in the U.S. presidential election campaigns and the policies of other countries like Britain. In support of the goal, Sweden sponsored the Weapons of Mass Destruction Commission, which issued a comprehensive report on WMDs and proposed a world summit in 2009 on disarmament, non-proliferation and terrorist use of weapons of mass destruction. The commission was chaired by the respected Dr. Hans Blix, former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency and UNMOVIC, the U.N.’s 2002-2003 Iraq weapons inspection team.

As the Blix Report noted, “So long as any state has such weapons — especially nuclear weapons — others will want them. So long as any such weapons remain in any state’s arsenal, there is a high risk they will one day be used, by design or accident. Any such use would be catastrophic.”

Ironically, now that portions of the national security elite have finally come around to championing a nuclear weapons-free world and polls show that popular sentiment remains highly anti-nuclear, the massive grassroots campaign against nuclear weapons of the 1980s is largely absent. But while others are at work abroad, groups like Peace Action (the successor to SANE and the Freeze), Physicians for Social Responsibility, the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, Faithful Security — the national religious partnership on the nuclear weapons danger, and World Citizens for Peace are among those striving to spark a resurrection of the nuclear disarmament campaign in the United States.

Edited from articles by Jayantha Dhanapala, former U.N. Under-Secretary-General for Disarmament Affairs, in the Asahi Shimbun newspaper (Japan) and The WMD Commission report, “Weapons of Terror: Freeing the World of Nuclear, Biological and Chemical Arms,” is available at

– PeaceMeal, July/August 2008

(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.)

New report calls for steps toward a nuke-free world

The Federation of American Scientists (FAS), along with the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), and independent analysts, have issued a new report, Toward True Security, that calls for immediately declaring that the sole mission for U.S. nuclear weapons is to deter nuclear attack, for taking all nuclear weapons off launch-ready alert, and for reducing the U.S. nuclear arsenal to a total of 1000 warheads, including reserves, as an immediately achievable, secure step toward a nuclear weapons-free world.

According to the report, the greatest nuclear dangers to the United States are an accidental, unauthorized or mistaken Russian nuclear attack, the spread of nuclear weapons to more nations, and the acquisition of nuclear materials by terrorists. U.S. nuclear weapons policy, the report concludes, fails to adequately address these risks and too often exacerbates them.

Toward True Security stresses the need to take U.S. nuclear weapons off hair-trigger alert. “Increasing the amount of time required to launch U.S. weapons would ease Russian concerns about the vulnerability of its nuclear weapons,” said Ivan Oelrich, a physicist and vice president for strategic security programs at FAS, and a report co-author. “That would give Russia the incentive to take its weapons off alert, reducing the risk of an accidental or unauthorized Russian launch on the U.S.”

The report echoes the sentiments of former Secretaries of State George Shultz and Henry Kissinger, former Secretary of Defense William Perry, and former Senate Armed Services Chairman Sam Nunn. They outlined their prescription for embracing a “vision of a world free of nuclear weapons” in two Wall Street Journal op-eds. The first ran in January 2007 and the second in January 2008.

“The next U.S. president can reduce the dangers that nuclear weapons pose to the United States and to the rest of the world by taking unilateral steps to lessen U.S. dependence on nuclear weapons,” said Dr. Lisbeth Gronlund, a physicist and co-director of the Union of Concerned Scientists’ Global Security Program, and a report co-author. “It has been nearly two decades since the Berlin wall came down, but U.S. policy is still mired in Cold War thinking. It’s time for a major change.”

Toward True Security goes beyond the former government officials’ recommendations by arguing that the United States should not wait for bilateral or multilateral agreements; it should take unilateral steps to begin the process. These steps, the report maintains, would make the United States safer, whether or not the eventual goal of a worldwide ban is ever achieved.

“Our next president should declare that the only purpose for U.S. nuclear weapons is to deter and, as a last resort, respond to the use of nuclear weapons by another country,” said Christopher Paine, director of NRDC’s Nuclear Program and a report co-author. “Making it clear that we will not use nuclear weapons first would reduce the incentive for other nations to acquire them to deter a potential U.S. first strike.”

Dr. Richard L. Garwin, a National Medal of Science recipient, developer of the hydrogen bomb, and a report co-author, added that the U.S. stockpile would still provide a credible deterrent with significantly fewer warheads. “The U.S. should unilaterally cut its nuclear arsenal to no more than 1,000 nuclear warheads,” he said. “There is no plausible threat that justifies maintaining more than a few hundred survivable nuclear weapons, and no reason to link the size of U.S. nuclear forces to those of any other country.”

The report outlines 10 specific, unilateral steps the next president should take to transform U.S. nuclear policy, which would put the world on a path to eventually ban nuclear weapons, and demonstrate global leadership:

1. Declare that the sole purpose of U.S. nuclear weapons is to deter and, if necessary, respond to the use of nuclear weapons by another country.

2. Take nuclear weapons off alert, so they can be launched within days instead of minutes.

3. Eliminate preset targeting plans. Replace them with the capability to promptly develop a response tailored to a specific situation if nuclear weapons are used against the United States or its allies.

4. Promptly reduce the U.S. nuclear arsenal to no more than 1,000 warheads.

5. Halt all programs to develop and deploy new nuclear weapons.

6. Retire all U.S. nonstrategic (tactical) nuclear weapons.

7. Commit to making further cuts in the U.S. nuclear arsenal on a bilateral or multilateral basis.

8. Declare that the United States will not resume nuclear testing, and work with the Senate to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.

9. Halt further deployment of the ground-based missile defense system and drop any plans for a space-based missile defense system.

10. Reaffirm the U.S. commitment to pursue nuclear disarmament and present a plan to meet that goal.

– Federation of American Scientists, 13 February 2008
PeaceMeal, March/April 2008

(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.)

WMD report challenges nuclear powers

A report titled Weapons of Terror: Freeing the World of Nuclear, Biological and Chemical Arms was released on June 1 after more than two years of work by an international Weapons of Mass Destruction Commission. The independent commission was launched in December 2003 and financed by the government of Sweden in response to profoundly worrying developments in international security, and to investigate ways of reducing the dangers from nuclear, biological and chemical weapons.

Chaired by Dr. Hans Blix, formerly head of the International Atomic Energy Agency and chief UN weapons inspector in Iraq, the WMD Commission comprised 14 eminent members from different countries, representing a broad geographical and political base with a vast reservoir of expert knowledge and political experience from the governmental, academic and nongovernmental arenas. The commissioners served in their personal capacity.

The report, presented by Dr. Blix to U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan at United Nations Headquarters in New York, contains 60 concrete proposals on how the world could be freed of nuclear, biological and chemical weapons.

The report is a wake-up call that identifies the alarming dangers posed especially by the 27,000 nuclear weapons that exist in the world today, and outlines steps leading toward the total prohibition and elimination of nuclear as well as biological and chemical weapons. The report does not shy away from holding the nuclear weapon states — including the United States and Israel — accountable for creating conditions under which other countries may feel that their security is threatened. These conditions may serve as incentives to those countries to seek WMDs of their own.

The Commission recognizes that nuclear weapons have a perverse and powerful prestige in international politics that inhibits disarmament and propels proliferation. At the heart of the Commission’s findings, the report states: “So long as any state has nuclear weapons, others will want them. So long as any such weapons remain, there is a risk that they will one day be used, by design or accident. And any such use would be catastrophic. ... The Commission rejects the suggestion that nuclear weapons in the hands of some pose no threat, while in the hands of others they place the world in mortal jeopardy.”

And at the core of its recommendations: “Disarmament and non-proliferation are best pursued through a cooperative rule-based international order, applied and enforced through effective multilateral institutions. ... Accept the principle that nuclear weapons should be outlawed, as are biological and chemical weapons, and explore the political, legal, technical and procedural options for achieving this within a reasonable time.”

The United States and other nuclear powers should plan for their national security without nuclear weapons, and prepare for their outlawing by treaty through practical measures undertaken among themselves. In comments introducing the WMDC report, Hans Blix said that American unwillingness to cooperate in international arms agreements was undermining the effectiveness of efforts to curb nuclear weapons. He said it was essential that Washington act to end the stagnation of arms limitation: “If it takes the lead, the world is likely to follow.”

In the meantime, the world should take measures to control the nuclear weapons and materials it now has. The Commission advises that all nuclear weapon states should declare a categorical policy of “no first use” of nuclear weapons. Only China has done this so far; the United States, Russia, France and the United Kingdom have reserved the option of using nuclear weapons first in response to an attack with biological or chemical weapons, and in some cases to prevent an attack.

The Commission also advises that the United States should agree with Russia to eliminate the launch-on-warning option in their nuclear war plans, along with a parallel decrease in operational readiness of strategic nuclear forces through measures like storing warheads separately from missiles. Right now, nuclear weapons can be targeted and fired within minutes.

The report also says that national governments should pay attention to the findings of international inspectors. They were, after all, proved right in the case of Iraq. The United States should take this lesson to heart with respect to Iran, where the IAEA has extensive on the ground experience and has not concluded that there is an active nuclear weapons program.

– edited from and
PeaceMeal, July/August 2006

Stockpiling nuclear arms may destroy human race

by Jim Stoffels

After two American atomic bombs brought an abrupt conclusion to the war with Japan in 1945, we began to grapple with control of those weapons in order to prevent a nuclear war.

For half a century — even as nuclear arsenals grew during the Cold War — progress in nuclear arms control was made through the deliberations and struggles of administrations, Congresses and activists of both political parties. Treaties were negotiated and ratified to eliminate nuclear weapon testing in the atmosphere and limit testing underground as well as to limit and then reduce the numbers of nuclear weapons in the U.S. and Russian arsenals.

In just the past few years, however, that progress has not only been halted but overthrown.

In 1999, the Senate rejected the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, which had been in the making for 40 years. It was first proposed by President Dwight Eisenhower in 1958.

Our present administration has now unilaterally withdrawn from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty — ratified by President Richard Nixon in 1972 — to pursue a ballistic-missile defense system. Ballistic missile defense is only the beginning of a larger U.S. program to dominate the entire world with weapons in space.

The new treaty signed by President Bush and Russian President Putin on May 24 is nothing but a sham that does not eliminate a single nuclear warhead. The treaty limits the total number of deployed strategic warheads to 2,200 in 2012, but it permits the United States and Russia to stockpile removed warheads intact, allowing them to be reinstalled on intercontinental missiles on relatively short notice.

When the treaty expires ten years from now, both countries will continue to have enough nuclear weapons to destroy each other and most of the rest of the world.

The treaty does nothing at all to address two of the most critically needed arms control measures: taking nuclear weapons off hair-trigger alert to avert an accidental nuclear catastrophe and adopting a policy of no-first-use of nuclear weapons to renounce an intentional nuclear war.

Far from beginning a Anew era of U.S.-Russian relationships,@ the treaty further institutionalizes the two powers= flouting of their obligation, made under the Non-Proliferation Treaty more than 30 years ago, to achieve nuclear disarmament.

In an unprecedented step backward, the Bush administration has rejected that commitment to nuclear disarmament and intends to maintain an arsenal of about 10,000 nuclear warheads for the indefinite future. This in spite of the 1996 World Court opinion that the threat or use of nuclear weapons is illegal under international law.

Those who cling to nuclear weapons sacrifice the true national security of the United States and of the world to their own insecurities. It can truly be said that we no longer control our nuclear weapons, but they control us. We now tend to the needs of these gods of metal in a multi-billion dollar program of AStockpile Stewardship@ that sounds like a religious duty.

At the highest levels of our government and military, we are incapable of even envisioning a world without this most horrendous of all human inventions.

Advocates of nuclear weapons abolition, regarded by some as extremists who don=t understand that the real world is a dangerous place, include more than 2,000 non-governmental organizations around the world, the governments of more than 150 nations that don=t have the albatross of nuclear weapons hanging around their necks, more than 100 present and former heads of state, and various Nobel laureates.

The former commander-in-chief of all United States strategic nuclear forces, Gen. George Lee Butler, calls nuclear weapons Ainherently dangerous, hugely expensive, militarily inefficient, and morally indefensible.@

Once upon a time, there was a warrior who lived many years after his battle. Discovered in 1996 on the bank of the Columbia River, 9,000-year-old Kennewick Man=s warrior status was evidenced by a stone projectile point embedded in the pelvis and overgrown with bone.*

Our warriors no longer brandish mere spears, leaving us with the question: Can we survive another 9,000 years with nuclear weapons?

- Jim Stoffels is co-founder and chairman of World Citizens for Peace - Tri-Cities, Washington.
The above op-ed was published in the Tri-City Herald, August 14, 2002.

*See Kennewick Man link under "Links" on our homepage.

(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.)

Nuke treaty too little, too late

The treaty signed by President George Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin on May 24 is a monument to the personal insecurity of its makers and defenders. Those who cling to nuclear weapons sacrifice the true national security of the United States and of the world to their own insecurities. They are incapable of even envisioning a world without this most horrendous of all human inventions.

The new treaty does not eliminate any nuclear warheads. In less than 500 words, half of which are a boilerplate preamble, it gives both countries 10 more years to remove some warheads from delivery systems — and then it expires!

The agreement limits the total number of nuclear weapons on strategic delivery systems to 2,200 in 2012, but sets no pace for achieving that goal. Moreover, it permits the United States and Russia to stockpile the removed warheads intact, allowing them to be reinstalled on intercontinental missiles on relatively short notice.

The treaty does nothing at all to address two of the most critically needed arms control measures: taking nuclear weapons off hair-trigger alert to avert an accidental nuclear catastrophe and adopting a policy of no-first-use of nuclear weapons to renounce an intentional nuclear war. Neither does it place any restrictions on the administration's destabilizing plans to build a ballistic missile defense system, which was previously a bone of contention for Mr. Putin.

Among U.S. senators, who have to vote on the treaty, some have already questioned whether Russian nuclear warheads might not be safer atop missiles than in poorly guarded storage facilities that could become tempting targets for terrorists. For his part, Mr. Bush did not explain how his assertion that the treaty will "liquidate the legacy of the Cold War" jibes with the fact that hundreds of our operational nuclear weapons will undoubtedly continue to have Russian targets in their computers.

The policy of both the Clinton and Bush administrations has been to maintain an arsenal of 10,000 nuclear warheads for the indefinite future. All preparations have been completed to resume tritium production for that purpose (see "Tritium supply" under "Issues"). The new treaty does nothing to change that policy.

Far from beginning a "new era of U.S.-Russian relationships," the treaty further institutionalizes the two powers' flouting of their obligations under the Non-Proliferation Treaty — signed 34 years ago — to achieve nuclear disarmament. Another 10 years from now, both countries will continue to have enough nuclear weapons to destroy each other and most of the rest of the world.

- Jim Stoffels, chairman and editor
PeaceMeal, May/June 2002

Global Assembly works to eliminate nuclear weapons

Nagasaki was the site of the Global Citizens' Assembly for the Elimination of Nuclear Weapons held on November 17-20, 2000. Hosted by the Nagasaki Foundation for the Promotion of Peace and an ad hoc organizing committee, the international gathering focused on the struggle to achieve a 21st century free from the threat of nuclear weapons and to ensure that Nagasaki will remain the last spot on Earth to suffer destruction by those weapons. The assembly also served to link peace activists and organizations from around the world with the citizens of Nagasaki.

The four-day assembly included workshops on peace education and peace culture, refutation of nuclear deterrence doctrine, establishment of a nuclear weapons convention, ballistic missile defense and the nuclearization of space, and nuclear weapon-free zones. A special forum was held for hibakusha (survivors of the 1945 atomic bombings) and nuclear weapon test victims.

The assembly concluded with adoption of the Nagasaki Appeal, a forward-looking document that briefly reviews the history and present status of nuclear weapons and proceeds to call for:

• negotiation of a verifiable treaty for the elimination of nuclear weapons;

• parallel implementation of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, a total ban on sub-critical and all other forms of nuclear weapons testing, de-alerting of nuclear weapons, the adoption of no-first-use policies, deep reductions of nuclear arsenals, and the cut-off and international control of weapons-usable fissile materials;

• cessation of all missile defense programs to prevent a new arms race;

• support in pressuring the Japanese government to end its dependence on nuclear weapons for national security;

• reallocation of monies currently spent on nuclear weapons to mitigate and compensate for the damage caused by nuclear activities.

PeaceMeal, Nov/December 2000

Nagasaki Appeal

Adopted by the Global Citizens' Assembly for the Elimination of Nuclear Weapons, Nagasaki, 20 November 2000

Standing on the threshold of a new century, we concerned global citizens have gathered from throughout the world in Nagasaki, the last city of the departing century to suffer the devastation of a nuclear attack.

Some half-century ago, humanity embarked on the development of nuclear weapons. These indescribably destructive instruments are capable not only of robbing millions of people of their lives at a single stroke, but also of inflicting lifelong physical and mental anguish on any survivors. The damage resulting from the use of nuclear weapons would extend far beyond the boundaries of the belligerents, having extremely serious consequences for the environment and all living things. Nevertheless, these criminal weapons are still being used by some states for political purposes.

It is our duty to provide a worthy response to the voices of the hibakusha - the atomic bomb survivors; voices tinged with anxiety stemming from the knowledge that death from not yet fully explained causes may come at any time; voices that say, "Such a tragedy cannot be allowed to be repeated... Before the last of us leaves this world, nuclear weapons must be abolished forever." It is the sincere desire of the citizens of Nagasaki that Nagasaki should remain the last city to suffer the calamity of the dropping of an atomic bomb.

Despite the fact that it has been over a decade since the collapse of the Cold War standoff, there are still over 30,000 nuclear warheads in existence on our fragile planet. The United States and the Russian Federation each continue to maintain several thousand nuclear weapons on hair-trigger alert.

The International Court of Justice, the world's supreme legal authority, has ruled that the threat or use of nuclear weapons is a violation of international law. These weapons, which are even more inhumane than biological or chemical weapons, are nonetheless claimed by the few governments which possess them, and by the countries sheltered by the "nuclear umbrella," as necessary for their security.

Expectations were raised in May of this year at the 2000 NPT Review Conference when the nuclear weapon states agreed to an "an unequivocal undertaking ... to accomplish the total elimination of their nuclear arsenals..." However, the phrase, "undertake to engage in an accelerated process of negotiations," had to be eliminated from the draft document in order to avoid the breakdown of the talks.

The continued existence of nuclear weapons poses a threat to all of humanity, and their use would have catastrophic consequences. The only defense against nuclear catastrophe is the total elimination of nuclear weapons.

During our conference, we have learned from the stories of many who have suffered from the nuclear age: the hibakusha and downwinders from Hiroshima and Nagasaki; Semipalatinsk, Nevada, and Moruroa; Chernobyl and Tokaimura. The world's citizens must now be mobilized to form a potent global movement, and it is this force that will compel governments to fulfill their promises. All sectors of the global community must be involved including women, youth, workers, religious communities and indigenous peoples.

Having concluded four days of discussions in Nagasaki, the concerned global citizens who attended this historic Assembly call for the following actions:

Activities aimed at the elimination of nuclear weapons, led by the hibakusha, Abolition 2000 and others, have progressed to the point where "nuclear weapons abolition" has become part of the common vocabulary of international politics and diplomacy. So long as the efforts of the world's citizens continue, there is bright hope that our objectives will be achieved. The myriad small steps taken by concerned citizens in every conceivable setting will no doubt lead to new and giant strides forward. Let us begin renewed and concerted action directed at the rapid realization of a 21st century free of war, in which the scourge of nuclear weapons is finally removed forever.

Congress fiddles while the world burns

What do we call what's happening in the other Washington? A circus?

Yes, but not of the innocent three-ring variety. More like the Roman circus — a blood-letting contest providing base entertainment for the masses.

That is not to condone turning the White House into a bawdy house; but in terms of substantive moral issues, Congress is focusing on the sliver in the national eye and ignoring the plank.

In June, 77 U.S. Catholic bishops condemned as "morally abhorrent" the continuing U.S. policy of nuclear deterrence. The bishops, all members of the Catholic peace organization Pax Christi, judged nuclear deterrence as immoral because "it is the excuse and justification for the continued possession and further development of these horrendous weapons."

As we have done in these pages, the bishops cited the Stockpile Stewardship and Management Program (SSMP) as evidence that the United States does not intend to uphold its obligation under the Non-Proliferation Treaty to achieve nuclear disarmament. SSMP is a vast program — $60 billion over the next a dozen years — to modernize the nuclear weapons complex for continued development and testing and to maintain a huge arsenal of nuclear weapons into the indefinite future.

Moreover, in spite of the end of the Cold War, the role of nuclear weapons has been dangerously expanded to include deterring Third World non-nuclear weapon states as well as defending other undefined U.S. interests abroad.

Both the Congress and the president are guilty of perpetuating these immoral policies. And the mainstream media, now largely controlled by corporate conglomerates, are accomplices in this suborning of national morality. Silence means assent; and the broadcast media in particular, driven by the profit motive rather than public service, have created "news as entertainment," focusing more on the sensational and titillating than on anything that might make us feel uncomfortable in our easy chairs.

Can we expect the networks' cadres of news gatherers to feed us live coverage of their global assets being vaporized when some "rogue state" calls our deterrence bluff and we respond with nuclear weapons?

And what about the morality of killing hundreds of thousands of people, mostly children, in Iraq with eight years of our devastating economic sanctions — not to eliminate their weapons of mass destruction, but solely to eliminate Saddam Hussein.

Whatever happened to "The end does not justify the means"? If killing hundreds of thousands isn't mass destruction — and immoral — what is?

~ Jim Stoffels, chairman and editor
PeaceMeal, Sept/October 1998

Where there's a will, there's a way!

Can we ever again enjoy a world free of nuclear weapons?

Some say that, no matter how desirable it may be, the nuclear weapons genie can never be put back in the bottle. Humankind cannot unlearn how to make nuclear weapons. They are joined by others whose continuing fears of former Cold War adversaries or of new "rogue states" bogeymen cause them to cling tenaciously to nuclear weapons as a blanket of false security.

On the other hand are us advocates of nuclear disarmament. We are variously regarded as "no-bomb extremists" who threaten the national security of the United States or as pollyanna-like idealists who don't understand that the real world is a dangerous place.

We "no-bomb extremists" now include more than 1,000 non-governmental organizations around the world, including World Citizens for Peace, that support the negotiation of a Nuclear Weapons Convention. Such a treaty would outlaw nuclear weapons and specify a timetable for their step-by-step elimination.

We "no-bomb extremists" include the governments of the more than 100 non-aligned nations in the world--those that don't have the albatross of their own nuclear weapons hanging around their necks. We also include more than 100 present and former heads of state, various Nobel laureates, and 60 active or retired generals and admirals from around the world.

The latter category includes Gen. George Lee Butler, the former commander-in-chief of all United States strategic nuclear forces. Butler calls nuclear weapons "inherently dangerous, hugely expensive, militarily inefficient, and morally indefensible."

Those who say we can't put the nuclear weapons genie back into the bottle are, by and large, regarded as "the experts." They inhabit the nuclear weapons labs, the Pentagon, government think tanks, the halls of Congress, and even the White House.

Let us remember that it was also "the experts" who said an atomic bomb was not possible and the first-place "the experts" were those German nuclear scientists we so feared during World War II. They (Heisenberg and company) were captured by the Allies after the fall of Berlin and confined at Farm Hall in England. Secret recordings of their conversations revealed their utter disbelief when the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were announced. They did not believe that the United States could have built an atomic bomb. Because they didn't know how to do it, it was "impossible."

We do the same today. We generalize our personal inabilities. "I can't!" or "I don't know how!" or "I'm too scared to try!" becomes "It can't be done!" — the doctrine of "the experts."

The anniversary of the atomic bombings is an appropriate time to reflect on the opening question:

Can we ever again enjoy a world free of nuclear weapons?

Whether we say "We can't!" or say "We can!", we're right.

~ Jim Stoffels, chairman and editor
PeaceMeal, July/August 1998